Believe me, I know it can be tough to choose something as life-defining as a career when you’ve barely had a chance to experience life in professional settings straight out of school. Any online query you make on the right way to determine your career path is rife with results like “Ways to Stop Making Excuses and Follow Your Passion,” right next to articles like “Following Your Passion is Crappy Advice!” And that’s not all. If you’re like 42% of US college students, you’re also faced with the incredible pressure of repaying your student loan debt in a tough and unforgiving job market that you’ve been under prepped to take on.
It can be tough to figure out exactly what the right thing to do is in this messy situation. Myself and other friends who’ve recently graduated have all faced these issues gone through periods of stress and depression, trying to define a career path for ourselves. The last thing you should do is to blame yourself when the reality of it is that many new jobseekers simply haven’t been set up for success. Here’s something that I learned in my journey of trying to figure it all out that helped me immensely:
Take a step back from all the noise. For a brief moment, try to bat away the thoughts and stress that might be clouding your vision for your own future. Many people have tried to make their career choice by weighing the pros and cons of the options by dimensions and qualities that are in reality quite hard to quantify. Here’s an age-old example that may be familiar: One job may pay more than the other; but how do you objectively compare the true value that that extra money in your bank has to you versus, say, the personal joy of creating art as a painter or performer? No matter how you try to guess your life may be like whether you choose Path A, B or C, you’ll never be truly satisfied by any ‘guesstimation’ of how a chosen profession may affect your happiness and satisfaction later on in life. Instead of wondering about could-be’s and should-be’s, try answering this question:
“Who do YOU want to be?”
Of course, as human beings, we are lucky to have the ability to choose who we become. Those choices and actions define who we are as people. A career is something you will spend a majority of your future life doing, and will inexorably come to exert a major and defining force on the you of the future. That’s why it’s critical for you to have a hand in forging your own identity from here on out.
Ask yourself, would I rather be Amy the painter or Amy the investment banker? Who would I respect and like more, Brandon the accountant or Brandon the sous chef? That is truly the only question whose answer will give you the inner resolve and strength to push through and maybe do something outside of your comfort zone. It’s the most important question I think you need to consider when choosing your career path. Once you’ve figured that out, the rest comes a lot easier. Also remember that things are rarely ever set in stone. Try to be more forgiving to yourself even if you make mistakes. It’s better to have tried than to have taken the safe route out of fear of the unknown. You’ll always learn something new about yourself and who you want to become.
Amy Liu is a Digital Marketing Associate at FirstJob and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley. In her free time, she loves exploring San Francisco and trying out tasty new restaurants.